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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey verybody,

I consider myself as an intermediate player. 1st alto sax at windband, several (cover) bands where I play alto and tenor, 1st sax marching band etc. I also transcribe(d) a lot of music and solo`s for me and for the bands. Not to brag just to give you an idea.

I play the sax for about 13 to 14 years I think, and I had lessons for about 5 years, 4 years kinda basic stuff and the 5th year mosly jazz. But... no improvising.

I'm an engineering student so in the summer "vacation" (still going to work 40+ hours) I'll have more time to spend on my music and I want to boost my level and gain some knowledge.

what I want to improve:
* I can only improvise by ear, I can pull it of quite nicely sometimes if I say so myself. But I want
to bring more structure to my playing (knowledge of those II IV VI's ???);
* also I would like to work at my tone production on alto and tenor including altissimo;
* and maybe boost my playing of quick licks (Sonny style)


the problem is, I really have NO idea where to begin looking. Do I have to look for a skype teacher for the summer? Are there some books out there? how to approach my goal? (weekly planning?)/

truthfully I havent really worked on my playing level (consciencely) for quite some time, I just played a lot and played stuff I liked and well, thats all I needed to play the music for the bands etc. but I want to grow in my musicallity, and I think this summer may be a good chance to start.

any help is welcome.

regards

Koen

P.S.
I'm also posting this on the cafe, the more info the better!
 

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I wouldn't know about private teachers, as I have never had one, but there are some good books out there. For tone production and altissimo (besides long-tones) Top Tones for Saxophone is a very good book. For music theory, Mark Levine's The Jazz Theory Book is very helpful. As for Sonny (Rollins or Stitt?) style licks, transcribing him or finding some of his transcriptions would probably be the best way to get licks.
 

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I always spent my summers focused on one concept. y goal was to go back to school and have a whole new bag of tricks under my fingers. Just pick one concept that you need work on and immerse yourself in it 4-6 hours a day. I remember one summer all I did was bebop scales, one summer I just worked on diminished stuff, one summer I just learned tunes all summer, Whe I was younger I spent one summer just trying to get through "Patterns for Jazz". (I never did get all the way through it but I made some huge progress that summer learning my chords and scales) Steve
 

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In order of your stated goals:

(1) I'm finding Steve Neff's books on ii-V-I to be very helpful, as well as JK Chang's studies. I agree with the above poster about Mark Levine's theory book, and there is also a multitude of resources on the web.

(2) As far as tone goes, I'm still struggling to find my tone again after a long layoff. What's helping me so far is (a) long tones - lots of them, (b) experimenting with different reed brands and strengths, and (c) listening to hours and hours of Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, etc., and trying to emulate their sound.

(3) For "quick licks Sonny Style", go back to #1. Learn the geography of your horn, learn the vocabulary, listen and transcribe solos from the cats you like, and the "licks" will follow.

(4) Since I know your predicament I'll throw this one in. Focus. Start simple, and focus on one thing at a time. Whether it's major or minor scales, or blues and bebop scales, or triads, or 7th chords, learn them well. Then choose something that'll expand on that knowledge and learn it, etc., etc.

If you're lucky enough to have a more experienced player around (doesn't necessarily have to be a sax player), ask questions if you don't understand something. Most cats are real willing to help.

Good luck in your quest,
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
@Tony: I'll look into those books you mentioned. I allready have a transcription book of sonny rollins but some of the licks I cant get into my fingers (not that I studied them real hard..) so I would be looking into how to grasp those licks faster and better.

@ mr.Neff: well the subjects I mentioned are actually mentioned in order of importence (to me).. So if I would submerge myself into one subject concerning improvising where to start?
also 4 to 6 hours is'nt managable for me, I have to work 40+ hours in the summer in order to keep my study costs low(er) and I have neighbours with kids so I'll have 2 to 3 hours max on a weekday..

(luckily I got a job in a machining factory, so i'll be gaining experience on the mill and lathe too!)
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
In order of your stated goals:

(1) I'm finding Steve Neff's books on ii-V-I to be very helpful, as well as JK Chang's studies. I agree with the above poster about Mark Levine's theory book, and there is also a multitude of resources on the web.
dont know this JK cahng you speek of but i'll look into this.

(2) As far as tone goes, I'm still struggling to find my tone again after a long layoff. What's helping me so far is (a) long tones - lots of them, (b) experimenting with different reed brands and strengths, and (c) listening to hours and hours of Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, etc., and trying to emulate their sound.
well.. I dont wnat to brag, but I have a pretty decent tone, and I have played a lot of different reed brands and strenghts and currently play on about 5 mouthpieces for different styles or how I feel.. I'm not looking for my own sound or tone but I want more control... I listen mostly to Benjamin Herman, King Curtis, Cannonball, Sonny Rollins and I'm forgetting some.

(3) For "quick licks Sonny Style", go back to #1. Learn the geography of your horn, learn the vocabulary, listen and transcribe solos from the cats you like, and the "licks" will follow.
#1 was classical for me ;-) But maybe transcribing some solo`s from sonny will help indeed...

(4) Since I know your predicament I'll throw this one in. Focus. Start simple, and focus on one thing at a time. Whether it's major or minor scales, or blues and bebop scales, or triads, or 7th chords, learn them well. Then choose something that'll expand on that knowledge and learn it, etc., etc.

If you're lucky enough to have a more experienced player around (doesn't necessarily have to be a sax player), ask questions if you don't understand something. Most cats are real willing to help.
yeah I have some contacts in the dutch sax world, but I dont think they have time to practice with me ;-)

Good luck in your quest,
thank you! and thanks for the advice
 

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@ mr.Neff: well the subjects I mentioned are actually mentioned in order of importence (to me).. So if I would submerge myself into one subject concerning improvising where to start?
also 4 to 6 hours is'nt managable for me, I have to work 40+ hours in the summer in order to keep my study costs low(er) and I have neighbours with kids so I'll have 2 to 3 hours max on a weekday..

(luckily I got a job in a machining factory, so i'll be gaining experience on the mill and lathe too!)
I can't answer that without knowing where you are at improv wise as well as where you want to be. If you want to learn common chord progressions like you stated in your original post then start with that. Start with ii-V-I's and ii-7b5-V7b9-i and master those in all 12 keys over the summer. Maybe a 12 bar blues in all 12 keys also. If you get those chords down and start to develop lines over and through them then that will be huge. Give yourself a goal that is doable and that can be measured so that you can keep on track and moving forward. If it is too nebulous then that isn't a goal you can get to because it is too vague. You have to be able to picture it to get there.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I can't answer that without knowing where you are at improv wise as well as where you want to be. If you want to learn common chord progressions like you stated in your original post then start with that. Start with ii-V-I's and ii-7b5-V7b9-i and master those in all 12 keys over the summer. Maybe a 12 bar blues in all 12 keys also. If you get those chords down and start to develop lines over and through them then that will be huge. Give yourself a goal that is doable and that can be measured so that you can keep on track and moving forward. If it is too nebulous then that isn't a goal you can get to because it is too vague. You have to be able to picture it to get there.
on a scale of 0 to 10 my knowledge on improv is probably 0.5. My way is to listen to the record, listen which notes work or not, and I remember that, and I just use a few tricks to make it sound okay (if you play the wrong note accidentally play it twice!) (the restult http://goo.gl/EnjuD ). so thats where I'm at.

and my goal has to be SMART right ;-)
 

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I've been considering this for myself and have just gotten a great new lease on playing in the last couple of days.

Find what you are worst at/ need the most improvement in and go to town. If you practice your strengths you're not going to get much better at them and still remain bad at the things that need work. For me that is transcribing. Setting aside an hour today to do some transcribing no matter how long it takes to just do 2 bars or four bars. Do it.

You still want your horn time to be fun though. Commit to learning a new Standard every week. I picked some pretty hard ones in the last week and realized that I need to do some serious work if I want to get them to a level where I'd be comfortable performing them.

Do some blues Homework! Man, I can't get over how great players can take 8+ chorus's on a blues and continue building and building. Usually motifically mixing in licks but revolving around a theme. Maybe not transcribe but just try lifting some blues lines.

Finally, go out and listen to some jazz. I went and Caught the Art Blakey Tribute band on Friday with Brad Turner and Jon Bentley playing horns and I just feel so amazing even still. One of the best jazz shows I've seen in a while. I was vibrating after and all I want to do is play right now..... A few hours and I'll get my chance.

Keep it fun. But be critical. What do you need to work on? What have you wanted to work on but haven't found the time? Go buy a CD and listen to only it for a whole day.

We're treading similar waters this Summer Koen88
 

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on a scale of 0 to 10 my knowledge on improv is probably 0.5. My way is to listen to the record, listen which notes work or not, and I remember that, and I just use a few tricks to make it sound okay (if you play the wrong note accidentally play it twice!) (the restult http://goo.gl/EnjuD ). so thats where I'm at.
Of course you'll always be improvising 'by ear'. But reading the above, I would say you need to learn some chords and work on playing through a basic chord progression. Do you already know, and can you play, all 12 major scales inside and out perfectly? If not start with that, by ear, not reading them. Then learn how to construct a major chord, dominant chord, and minor chord.

Once you have a handle on how chords are constructed, I would agree with littlewailer about starting with the blues. Learn the most basic 12 bar blues progression (using I, IV7, V7 chords) and work with that for a while. Be sure to listen to whatever type of music you are working on also!
 

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Definitely don't skimp on the long tones and overtones just because you already like your tone. They will help your pitch a lot if done with intent and a lot of patience, and they will help you fill in your upper register which sounds a little thin to me on the recording (I am listening on a computer though). Listening to players you like (the greats) and playing through changes will also help with your vocabulary. Like you, little wailer, and probably 90% of the forum; I'm working on the same kinds of things. It seemed like you ran out of ideas part way through the solo and instead of stopping, you fell into the oh so uncomfortable trap of being in the middle of a chorus with nothing left to say...Of course the Aebersold/ music minus one-type play alongs aren't very inspiring because it is the same thing over and over again.

Good luck! Have fun! Post another clip in a couple months (or at least record yourself so you can hear the progress).
 
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